LG's not exactly known for its prowess with an SDK. As such, we greeted the announcement of the beta release of LG Cloud with skepticism. LG Cloud, as you'll recall, is the company's three-screen media sharing service. It provides 5GB of free storage, or 50GB for six months of use if you’ve already purchased an LG Smart TV or smartphone. After six months, your free storage will drop to 5GB with the option to pay for more (although the company hasn’t announced any detailed pricing plans yet). Native apps are available for PCs, LG’s Smart TVs, and Android handsets. Although native clients aren’t available for Mac and iOS devices yet, we’re told that they’re under development.
With the web app, you can create folders and upload, download, delete or rename files. We were impressed by the speed as well as the way it handles transfers. After selecting multiple files to upload, the service will automatically queue your files before uploading them one after another. Once it’s finished, the page refreshes, showing what has changed. Unfortunately, we found problems when trying to search our content. If you upload hundreds of files, you have to manually browse for the file you’re looking for since the list view will only display twenty-three items per page. To make matters worse, LG doesn’t provide a search bar. There’s a thumbnail view which is useful when you’re looking for a photo, but it won’t help you out with documents. Also, you can’t drag and drop files into folders either, which isn’t helpful when you’re trying to reorganize your files.
"N Screen" lets you resume a video on your phone that you paused on the TV
The Android app is essentially the mobile version of the web app but designed for viewing your content remotely. It allows you to stream, download, and upload your files in addition to managing your settings for features like auto-upload and your preferred size of video subtitles. While the app is running in the background, photos and video you take with the camera app will transmit automatically to your account. Content can be viewed over a stream or downloaded first to your device. Watching videos over a stream isn’t ideal since the app will lower the quality to match the relatively slow smartphone or tablet connection. But if you download your videos first, you’ll be able to enjoy them at their original resolution. Naturally, you can also stream and download music files. PDF files render just fine since they take advantage of the Android document viewer.
Unfortunately, searching within the Android app is a painful experience, similar to the web app. There’s no search bar, and because the app is designed for a smaller screen, you’ll end up constantly swatting at the display in order to scroll through the list for that elusive file.
Finally, the TV app, exclusive to LG’s Smart TVs, will also access your videos, music, and photos but not your documents. A feature called "N Screen" lets you resume a video a few seconds before the point where you left off. Streaming video from your account and watching it on your TV is a fairly straightforward process and we didn’t see any glitches during the demo.
the company isn’t offering anything truly innovative here; instead it’s just playing follow-the-leader
LG Cloud is not a direct competitor to iCloud or Dropbox, nor was it meant to be. It certainly wasn’t designed to share files publicly. This is personal cloud storage for your devices. At a fundamental level, LG succeeded in impressing us. If you have reasonable internet speed, you’ll find that the uploading process isn’t too painful. And if you happen to have an LG Smart TV, an Android phone and a PC, it might be worth trying the service for the first six months in order to take advantage of LG’s 50GB offer. LG Cloud is suitable for anyone who dreads the idea of plugging in an external hard drive to the TV to watch videos.
While LG certainly covers the basics with this beta release, the company isn’t offering anything truly innovative here; instead it’s just playing follow-the-leader in an industry that's desperately trying to refocus from devices to ecosystems. We’ll see how it looks when LG Cloud launches as a one-dot-oh release in the US next month.
Thomas Ricker contributed to this report